On the eve of the All-Star break ending and the second half beginning, teams around the league review what they did good in the first half and what they need to improve on. The Seattle Mariners look to assess as a team as well. Seattle ended the first half with a 48-43 record. This puts them in healthy competition for the remainder of the year. They stand seven games out of place Houston Astros in the AL West and three and a half behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wildcard spot. Even though the All-Star break symbolizes halfway, the Mariners have already played 91 games of a 162 game season. They have 71 games to make a difference and hopefully clinch a spot in the postseason. Here is what the Mariners have done well and what they need to improve on.
Mariners First Half Breakdown
There has been a multitude of great things from the Mariners roster this season so far. This is reflected in their .527 winning percentage, one of their highest at this point in recent years. They have seen production in specific areas from the mound and the field and some unexpected performances from players.
The pitching during Seattle’s first half has had its ups and downs, but the performances of All-Star Yusei Kikuchi, Chris Flexen, and Kendall Graveman should not be overlooked. Kikuchi has been a pillar of the Mariners rotation. With the absence of James Paxton, Kikuchi has blossomed into a great pitcher for the Mariners. He has had a turnaround season, posting a team-leading 3.48 ERA, and has consistently gone the distance in games. He also has a workhorse attitude that will be sure to result in even more improvement.
Chris Flexen is arguably a close second in the rotation to Kikuchi. Flexen has posted a 3.51 ERA but an impressive 8-3 record. Flexen also happens to be one of the best in limiting the number of walks allowed. He has only given up 19 walks all season, which has limited the damage done by opposing teams. He has shown great control with his four-pitch repertoire of 4-seam fastball, cutter, changeup, and curveball. Flexen has been a great addition to this Mariners team.
Kendall Graveman has been a reliable guy in the bullpen for the Mariners so far this season. He has an unbelievable ERA of 0.95 in 25 games. Even though he does not necessarily take the bulk of the bullpen load, he has been the go-to guy to pitch a clean inning. Many teams lack inconsistency from their closers, but the Mariners have found it in Graveman. Even though missing time due to injury, he has been unbelievably consistent. He even had one of the longest active scoreless inning streaks, not allowing an earned run or an inherited run score until June 12th. Graveman is a centerpiece for the Mariners moving forward to contend deep into the season.
In the Mariners first half, they have been able to rely on the fielding. They may not be at the top of every category, but being in the middle of the pack is great. This is an area of the Mariners game that is not focused on nearly as much because it is consistent. Of course, there can always be improvements to this, especially when it comes to allowing errors. The Mariners are, however, at the top of the league in double plays turned. They only sit 3 behind the Boston Red Sox for best in the league at 89 double plays turned. The Mariners’ teams are trying to catch (Houston and Oakland) tied for 16th in league with 70. This is a statistic that may get lost but is important nonetheless. The Mariners get out of situations by turning key double plays. This could be something that could be very helpful when playing their divisional opponents. If they can continue to turn double plays, that frustrates the opposing team and limits scoring chances. The fielding for the Mariners has been a solid aspect of their game for the first half.
Improvements for the Second Half
Although not every statistic is directly determinate of a team’s success, the Mariners have some improvement needs. The hitting, in particular, could use some improvements. The Mariners have key players in their lineup that shine at the plate, as mentioned previously. However, they do not have the threat to hit from 1-9 in the lineup. They have the worst team batting average in the league at .216. This is also reflected in their run differential, which sits at -50. This essentially means the Mariners have driven in 50 fewer runs than the teams they are playing. It is no wonder that these two statistics could be very much related.
The Mariners are second-worst in hits (635) and the bottom third of the league (371) in runs scored. The old saying in baseball is, “good pitching will always stop good hitting.” The good pitching from the Mariners has stopped hitting from opposing teams. However, the Mariners need to start figuring out other pitchers, especially those they often see in their division.
Overall, the Mariners need to have a more solid lineup. It is not plausible to rely on a lineup that hits for the worst average in all of baseball. This is an improvement need the Mariners could potentially shop for at the upcoming trade deadline. It is hard to tell what teams will be selling and what will be on the market, but the Mariners could use some backup. This may require giving up someone already on the team or in the minor league system. It is interesting to think about how many more games the Mariners could have won if they had better hitting. With a team that is already competitive even without a stellar lineup, a move at the deadline could drastically help the Mariner’s chances at a postseason birth.
The Mariners open the second half on July 16th with a three-game series against the division-rival Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. All but one of the four series before the coveted trade deadline is against divisional teams. The Mariners will have to keep themselves in contention playing the Angels, Athletics, and Astros to be competitive in the final stretch. With the July 30th trade deadline looming, and the Mariners on the cusp of contention, the front office will have to make some hard decisions. Until then, the Mariners must continue their relatively great first half and continue it into the second half. If the first half is any indication of what the second half will be like, fans will be in for a wild end to the 2021 season.
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